[IMGCAP(1)]CPAs are required to take continuing professional education courses each year. The amount varies by state, but every state has mandatory requirements.

Some CPAs, like me, take courses and look for ideas to be able to serve clients better. Some, like me, take courses to learn about what is new and innovative, so my knowledge will be “cutting edge.” Some, like me, actually like attending CPE courses (well, most of them). Also, at these courses I find the interaction with colleagues stimulating, providing additional opportunities to learn and grow.

On the other hand, many accountants view CPE as a chore, don’t like attending the classes, are bored, bring outside work to work on (hopefully unnoticed) during the presentations, and walk away feeling they have wasted a day. A lot of these accountants call me with technical questions that I know they would know the answers to if they took a basic CPE program in that area, or paid attention to what they were attending.

By edict, these CPAs are forced to do what they should look forward to be doing voluntarily. The successful CPAs have a common trait—they take CPE programs that help give them a head’s up over other accountants. They take courses in the technical accounting and tax issues for industries they have clients in, such as construction contractors, law firms, medical practices, not-for-profits or real estate developers; or courses in specialties such as estate, succession and financial planning, business valuation and forensic accounting, merger and acquisition transactions, or business consulting. There are also many well-designed update courses for the busy practitioner in taxes, accounting, auditing and technology.

The AICPA, state societies and many private education providers all have thick catalogues of hundreds of courses. I flip through every one I get looking for a course that could give me that edge. I just don’t understand why all my counterparts at other firms don’t do that.
CPE is an opportunity to learn from successful colleagues who willingly share their knowledge and experience. It’s there for the taking. Take!

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is a partner in WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He has authored 20 books and has written hundreds of articles for business and professional journals and newsletters plus a Tax Loophole article for every issue of TaxHotline for 27 years. Ed also writes a blog twice a week that addresses issues his clients have at www.partners-network.com. He is the winner of the Lawler Award for the best article published during 2001 in the Journal of Accountancy. He has also taught in the MBA graduate program at Fairleigh Dickinson University, and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Tax Court. Ed welcomes practice management questions and he can be reached at WithumSmith+Brown, One Spring Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, (732) 964-9329, emendlowitz@withum.com.